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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Urban Neighborhood Context and Change in Depressive Symptoms in Late Life


Objectives. This study examines associations between urban neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics and change over time in late life depressive symptoms. Methods. Survey data are from three waves (1993, 1995, and 1998) of the Study of Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), a U.S. national probability sample of noninstitutionalized persons aged 70 or older in 1993. Neighborhoods are 1990 U.S. Census tracts. Hierarchical linear regression is used to estimate multilevel models. Results. The average change over time in depressive symptoms varies significantly across urban neighborhoods. Change in depressive symptoms is significantly associated with neighborhood-level socioeconomic disadvantage and ethnic composition in unadjusted models, but not in models that control for individual-level characteristics. Discussion. Findings indicate that apparent neighborhood-level effects on change in depressive symptoms over time among urban-dwelling older adults reflect, for the most part, differences in characteristics of the neighborhood residents.

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